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5 Points to Remember About Professional Development

Monday, September 25th, 2017

Many professionals find themselves overlooking the importance of ongoing professional development. You’ve worked your way into your field. Just keeping your job, however, isn’t enough! Your industry is always changing, whether it’s learning to use new materials or adhering to new environmental standards. Knowing how to answer those challenges means attending professional development and taking advantage of those opportunities on a regular basis.

1. Professional development is ongoing. You should always be learning new skills and further developing your abilities within your field. There’s no reason to let yourself be static or to miss out on opportunities! Instead, consider professional development an ongoing part of your career process.

2. Learning isn’t just for job seekers. Don’t wait until you’re looking for a job to increase your professional skills and learn more about your chosen field. You can tackle classes, attend seminars, and increase your certifications even when you’re happy with your current job–and in many cases, that will be the step that helps you reach your new career goals.

3. You need a plan for your professional development. Don’t simply attend classes haphazardly or attend seminars that “interest” you. Instead, lay out a plan. Do you have a specific career goal–for example, eventually becoming a project superintendent? Is there a skill set you’d like to add to your resume? Make those things a priority.

4. This doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You don’t have to constantly take difficult classes or arrange vacation time for every seminar. Instead, look for opportunities that fit with your existing schedule in order to improve your professional appeal without diminishing your current job.

5. Allows for a great opportunity to make connections. You never know when you’re going to attend a seminar or conference, only to meet a future employer. You might develop relationships with subcontractors or learn more about a great supplier in your area. Take advantage of professional development opportunities to make connections that will benefit you for years.

You want to rise to the top of your industry. While you’re constantly learning on the job, professional development opportunities will take that learning to the next level and allow you to make more of yourself. Don’t fall into the trap of complacency! Make your resume look better than ever as you further develop your professional skills and work toward the job of your dreams. Never stop learning new skills for your long term success.

The Brand Called You: The 5 Word Branding Exercise

Monday, September 25th, 2017

So what is the “The Brand Called You”?

You are a brand. Your personal brand is a way of communicating what is inherently you. Your experience, background, education, methodology, personality, etc.

How do you figure out your personal brand?

There are many ways, but I’m going to give you one exercise.

In the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, which also was made into a movie starring Julia Roberts, every time Liz, the main character, went to a location, she tried to come up with a word to capture the brand of that location. For example, if I recall correctly, her brand word for Rome was Sex (or maybe Passion!). And at one point, someone turned the tables on her and asked her, “Liz, what’s your word?” And she was stumped. Part of the reason she couldn’t come up with her word at that point was she had lost touch with who she was, and needed to dig deeper, which she does as her journey progresses. But another part of that may have been that it is awfully hard to come up with just one word to describe your entire overall personal brand!

So I’m asking you to come up with 5.

5 words that capture what is uniquely you – your Personal Brand.

For some of you, this still may be difficult.

If you can’t come up with 5 words yourself, then pay attention to how others perceive you. Ask family, friends, colleagues and clients for 5 words that describe you. Please only ask those that will be your “believing eyes.” If you own a business, look at your client testimonials for patterns of words and phrases that repeat themselves. If you are employed in a workplace setting, look at your job evaluations and letters of reference. If you are just getting out o f college, look at your letters of recommendation. You get the picture. You are trying to find the words that others have used to describe your personal brand.

Here are my 5 words: Professional, Intelligent, Warm, Sassy, Productive.

Try to come up with a mix of words that exhibit both hard and soft skills, or tap into left and right brain characteristics. We are all made up of both, so mixing up the 5 words for your brand is a nice way to demonstrate your multi-facetted personality and help you to appear less one-dimensional. For example, in my words, you will see that intelligent, professional and productive capture more of my left brain side and hard skills, while warm and sassy capture my more creative, right brain side and soft skills.

A really powerful exercise is to come up with 5 words for someone else.

I was doing this exercise for an organization at one of my speaking engagements earlier this year, and one of the participants raised her hand and said “I got nothing. I can’t think of any words for me.” So I looked around at her colleagues and asked if any of them had some words for her. Slowly, they started calling out words, and we could see that some of them overlapped and some themes started to emerge. It was very powerful to watch the effect it had on her as she learned what her peers considered to be her personal brand.

So I challenge you to list your 5 words. Make sure they truly capture your essence, personality, and what makes you uniquely you.

The next step is to start examining your life and work to make sure that your 5 words match how you showcase your brand to the world. Would someone be able to guess your 5 words? Immediately upon meeting you? Or at least after getting to know you further? If so, your external brand matches your internal brand. If not, your external brand is incongruent with who you really are. This can cause confusion, make others feel disconnected to you, and result in your appearing inauthentic.

So think of your personal brand as an opportunity to have a deeper internal conversation that says who you are on many levels. Don’t miss that opportunity! Welcome that conversation. Start it with 5 words.